No time for what is truly important to you?

This was the topic of my book when I signed up for NaNoWriMo in 2016.

Time is something we can never have enough of. The more we want to do, the less time we have left.

Managing our time in a way that gives us an opportunity to focus on what is important to us is crucial not only for our success in our areas of interest but also for our happiness and fulfillment.

Have you recently thought about something you would like to do more of but you simply cannot find the time for it?

If your answer is yes, then please keep your example in mind while reading this article. I hope that you will find some of the tips I will share with you useful.

For me writing is very important. It doesn’t matter whether someone will ever appreciate the content I produce or not, writing gives me an opportunity to reflect and make sense of my thoughts, emotions, and ideas.

When I realized I wanted to write a book, it was not difficult to find the time to write. What definitely helped me get into action was setting a challenging target.

I am very grateful to my colleague Kelly van der Laan-Willemse, a successful published writer, for the tips and inspiration that helped me make the first step. She was the one who told me about Nanowrimo, an initiative that challenges writers or people who want to become writers to write 50,000 words in the month of November. I signed up to participate in November 2016. Although I managed to write only 25,056 words and I didn’t produce a ready for publishing book, the whole experience brought me to where I am right now.

Once I had the target and the motivation to write as much as possible on a daily basis, I suddenly realized that I had much more time than I had initially expected.

After all, we all have 24 hours each day. If we assume that we spend 8 hours working and 8 hours sleeping, it would mean that we actually have another 8 hours left!

When I knew what was important to me, I did find time to write even in my busiest days and weeks. How did I do it?

Well, it all starts with looking closely at your daily routine.

Do you honestly know exactly how you spend those 8 hours in which you don’t sleep or work?
Have you ever tried to calculate how much time you spend browsing social media sites or watching TV?

I recently read an article on How much time do people spend on their mobile phones in 2017 where the shocking outcome was:

“Over 4 hours a day”

Over 4 hours a day?! That’s quite some time, don’t you think?

Assuming this statistic is correct, I would like to use it in order to perform a simple calculation.

Imagine you decide to spend half of the time on your mobile phone starting from tomorrow. That would immediately mean that you would have about 2 hours a day to spend on what is truly important to you. Per week that would give you about 14 hours. That’s almost two working days! Per month that would become one and a half working weeks (60 hours). In a year that would add up to about 730 hours, a little over 18 working weeks! You could actually call it a part-time job!

This was just one example of how you can free up some time. Another option is to observe more closely how you spend your time and see where you can bring more efficiencies. For example, can you be more efficient when you are:

  • cleaning the house;
  • doing the groceries;
  • getting ready for work;
  • …?

If you cannot decrease your commuting time, then how can you make the best out of it? Whether you travel by public transport or by car, there are always ways to be creative — if you cannot write or read, then you are at least able to listen or think. The same goes for the time you spend on the toilet ;-)

I am as busy as you are and I need to constantly look for creative ways to find time for writing on a daily basis such as:

  • Wake up at 6:00 a.m to write before work
  • Write after work
  • Write when I suddenly wake up in the middle of the night and cannot fall asleep
  • Write during the weekend
  • Write when I am sick and cannot leave my bed
  • Write while waiting for my flight at the airport as well as during the flight
  • Write on Christmas eve when my family is already asleep

Writing is not only part of my daily routine but also when I am on a holiday, on the beach or pretty much wherever possible, whenever possible, no matter my emotional state (sad, happy, disappointed, excited). When I don’t have my laptop with me I make a note of my thoughts or ideas on my phone, so I can use them when the time comes.

I bet that you can still bring some changes to your daily routine as long as you know where you want to focus your time and attention on. So, finding the time is the easy part.

However, doing it on a daily basis is what demands determination and perseverance. Please don’t expect it will always come naturally. You will definitely need to make choices. Every single minute.

Is watching TV more important to you than going for a run?
Is spending hours on Facebook more important to you than going out with a friend?
Is [whatever your excuse is] more important to you than [what is truly important to you]?

You will need to be alert when you are being lazy or simply when you get into your autopilot mode. After all, who would like to get up one hour earlier instead of staying in bed?

An hour of your most favorite activity will give you much more energy and satisfaction than unconsciously spending time on something just out of habit. You will need to push yourself in the moments when you are not feeling like it, but when you know deep down that it will be worth it.

What helps me keep writing on a regular basis is my promise to myself (and to the world) to share with you one article every last Thursday of the month. Even if I don’t feel like writing every single day, at least I have a target and I know that someday I will need to sit and just do it!

Do you still remember your example from the beginning of the article?

Although for me it is writing, I believe that you can apply some of the ideas I have just shared with you to pretty much everything you are trying to do more of.

Please be aware that you will not manage to do it every single day and that is perfectly fine. Life is also to be enjoyed, so if you are really tired, sick or you just don’t feel like doing anything, then simply follow your heart.

I am also not trying to make you feel guilty about how you spend your time. If you are happy spending most of your day watching series or browsing social media websites, please feel free to do so.

Just remember one thing:

The next time you think that you don’t have time for what is truly important to you, I challenge you to think again!

Additional readings:

If not the lack of time but fear is holding you back, feel free to visit my article Sometimes the fear won’t go away, so you’ll have to do it afraid for some insights on how to face your fears.

In case you are a bit lost and want to find out what is truly important to you, I recommend you to read What do you want to be when you grow up? It will hopefully help you reconnect with your inner child.